Monday, February 20, 2006

Russia, Iran to Hold More Nuke Talks

The Guardian:
Russian and Iranian negotiators concluded a day of talks Monday on Moscow's offer to enrich uranium for Iran and agreed to continue discussions, but did not say when, Russian news reports said.

The office of Russia's presidential Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov, who hosted the Iranian delegation, issued a terse statement that the Russian and Iranian negotiators had agreed to continue talks, Interfax, ITAR-Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies reported. The statement did not say when, where or on what level the talks would be continued.

ITAR-Tass said the Iranian delegation was expected to leave Moscow on Tuesday. Talks to the Iranian Embassy in Moscow went unanswered on Monday evening. READ MORE

The Russian offer, backed by the United States and Europe, was widely seen as the last chance for Iran to address the West's concerns before a March 6 meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which could start a process leading to punishment before the U.N. Security Council.

But Iran has adamantly defended its right to maintain a domestic enrichment program, seen by the United States and other Western nations as a cover-up for a suspected weapons program.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov sought to lower expectations before Moscow talks.

Analysts warned against expecting a decisive outcome Monday, saying a concrete result would more likely emerge from further talks when the head of Russia's atomic energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, visits Iran on Thursday.

Experts have said Iran would like its scientists to have access to the Russian enrichment facility and hope to retain the right to conduct some part of the enrichment process at home.